Now more than ever, there are tons of great mountain bikes that aren’t just capable, reliable, and fun to ride; they’re affordable, too. Most bike brands offer at least one if not many cheap options in their lineup.
See our top picks below, or scroll deeper for more in-depth reviews of these bikes and other great options, as well as helpful buying tips and advice.
You don’t have to drop a boatload of cash to get into mountain bike riding (most of the bikes on this list are priced under a grand). Below we provide information about what you’ll typically get when you purchase a cheaper mountain bike and what you should look for, followed by 16 of the best options you can buy.
What Kind of Gearing Should I Expect?
Over half the bikes on our list are equipped with a one-by (1x) drivetrain, which means it has a single chainring on the crank. 1x drivetrains are simpler, lower maintenance, quieter, and are less likely to drop the chain. At the rear, most of these bikes have least 10-speeds. The cheapest bike on this list has a 1x10, but a few have 12-speeds—which offers more range and tighter jumps between gears—which is a nice feature to have. Ironically, 1x drivetrains—which don't have a front derailleur or front shifter—are more expensive than more complex 2x or 3x drivetrains..
The rest of the bikes on our list are equipped with a 2x or 3x drivetrain paired with 8, 9, and 10-speed cassettes (a cassette is a cluster of cogs). Two or three chainrings up front make up for fewer gears in the back—and can expand your gear range altogether (though the idea behind the 1x is to eliminate gear overlap). Disadvantages include added weight, decreased clearance, a better chance for something to break, and less-reliable shifts (because your chain has more front rings to move on).
Basically, the spectrum of chainring and cassette combinations on mountain bikes in the $1,000 price range is so broad and diverse, it comes down to personal preference.
Can I Get Suspension at This Price?
Yes. Every bike on this list (save for the Mongoose Argus Sport) comes with at least a suspension fork. You can even find some good full suspension bikes at affordable prices: The $900 Diamondback Atroz 2 offers full suspension for less than some of the hardtail bikes on this list.
Suspension forks are either coil- or air-sprung, the latter of which provides more tuning options. “Air forks can be an excellent feature, as you can tune them to match the rider weight and riding style, but they do add significant cost to a bike,” says Trek’s Hardtail Product Manager, Chris Drewes.
In general, if you compare a hardtail and a full suspension bike of about the same price, the hardtail will be lighter and be built with better parts. Full suspension, however, can offer more comfort and control.
Where’s the Best Place to Shop for My Bike?
Resist the urge to go to a big-box store and pull a mountain bike bike off the rack. The price tag can be appealing, but along with unreliable components, those bikes are often poorly built by people who lack the expertise to safely assemble a bike.
Consider buying from your local bike shop (LBS). A shop will usually let you test ride several bikes, and can help you get your riding position set, and offer instruction on how to use the bike's controls and features. Plus, when you purchase a bike from your LBS, it will often do the first tune-up for free—a good idea as parts to often need adjustment after a break in period—and will treat your bike as a regular “patient” thereafter. If you fancy a specific brand, search out an authorized dealer near you using the dealer locator on the brand's website.
Online retailers can offer compelling-looking prices, but that discount can be washed away by shipping charges. You’ll also need to assemble the bike yourself. Most direct-to-consumer brands make their bikes easy to assemble, with tools included and helpful online videos. Or you can pay to an LBS to assemble the bike, but that will further erode any price advantage. So be sure you're factoring in any shipping and assembly costs when you're comparing prices.
How Did We Test These Bikes?
Every product here has been thoroughly vetted by our team of test editors. We research the market, survey user reviews, speak with product managers and engineers, and use our own experience racing and riding these products to determine the best options. Most models have been tested by our staff and those that haven’t have been carefully chosen based on their value, quality of parts (most of which we’ve tested separately), our experience riding similar models, and how the overall package meets the needs of the intended buyer.
Ridden and Reviewed
―Our Favorite Cheap Full Suspension―
Marin Rift Zone 2
The Rift Zone 2 is the 29er version of the Bicycling Editors’ Choice award-winning Marin Hawk Hill. The Rift Zone 2 gets larger wheels, which roll over rocks and other features more easily and add some stability as speeds pick up. With 120mm of travel, it’s great for trail rides, especially on technical terrain, and can even work for some light-duty racing. A 1x drivetrain, dropper post, hydraulic disc brakes, and tubeless-ready wheels make the Rift Zone 2 stand out—few bikes at this price include all these features. But that’s only a few reasons why we fell for the Rift Zone 2. Marin also got the geometry just right—they took the winning legacy of the Hawk Hill and adapted it for bigger wheels.
―Great For Bike Parks And Rowdy Trails―
Marin Hawk Hill 1
The Hawk Hill 1 is one of our favorite mountain bikes, period. This trail-ready bike has a 130mm RockShox Recon RL fork with both compression and rebound adjustment, which is critical for fine-tuning the fork to your riding style, and the 120mm X-Fusion O2 Pro R shock is ready to absorb big hits. Combined with 27.5-inch wheels and 2.3-inch tires, this Marin is ready for both trail days and bike park sessions, and the Shimano 1x10-speed drivetrain offers a wide range of gears.
―Cheapest Full-Suspension Bike On Our List―
Diamondback Atroz 2
This bike makes our list not because it’s cheap, but because it’s an affordable full-suspension bikes we trust. The aluminum frame gives you 100mm of travel at the rear, and the SR Suntour XCM fork has 120mm of travel. The 1x9 drivetrain simplifies shifting, and the gearing range is adequate for flowy trails and moderate climbs. Shimano hydraulic brakes, with 180mm rotors, provide plenty of control, should you decide to push the limits. Despite being a full-suspension bike, the Atroz 2 is most at home on smoother trails where the shock does a nice job of smoothing out small bumps. It can be ridden on rowdier trails, but the Atroz 2 gets a little out of its league riding classic East Coast rocks.
―Great Value and Performance―
Rocky Mountain Growler 20
The Growler 20 is not flashy, or extra light, or super fast, but it is an aluminum hardtail with a 120mm-travel Suntour fork, 27.5x2.8-inch WTB Ranger tires, and a 1x9 Shimano drivetrain that outperforms its price. The Rocky Mountain Growler 20 is the best, most capable, and most pleasing-to-ride sub-$1,000 mountain bike we’ve ever tested.
Other Options to Consider
―Mid-Fat Women's-Specific Hardtail―
Trek Roscoe 7 Women's
There is so much to love about this bike it's hard to pick a place to start. The SRAM SX Eagle drivetrain, with a 30t chainring and 10-50 cassette gives a massive range of gears and plenty of low-gear options for easing the pain of climbing hills. 27.5-inch wheels are good in tight, technical terrain and really good on smaller bikes, and the 2.8-inch tubeless ready tires offer great traction and a plush ride. The RockShox Judy Silver gives plenty of travel to get rowdy (1oomm for size XS, 120mm for S-L) and can be locked out for more efficient riding when off the trails. And speaking of rowdy, a 100mm dropper post is a very cool addition to a bike at this price. Add in flat pedals and you've got an affordable trail bike that will serve riders well for many seasons.
―Great First Race Bike―
If you're looking for a bike that will both serve you well for playtime on the dirt as well as hold its own as an entry-level race bike, the Mahuna is worth serious consideration. 29-inch wheels roll fast and smooth out the bumps better than 27.5 -inch wheels, and the 2.25-inch tires are light and quick with enough tread to really bite into the trail. A 1x10 drivetrain keeps shifting simple and offers plenty of gearing at both the low and high end, and hydraulic disc brakes give pinpoint braking control. And it comes with flat pedals so it's ready to go right out of the box.
―Ready to Play Hard―
Haro Double Peak 27.5 Plus Comp
For those who want to get rowdy but don't want to bump up to a full suspension rig, the Haro Double Peak 27.5 Plus Comp may be for you. 2.6-inch tires will give a smooth ride and plenty of grip, and the 120mm HL fork is ready to take big hits. The Shimano Deore 1 x 10-speed drivetrain, with a 30t chain ring and 11-42 cassette gives riders a usable gear spread for most terrain. If you're looking for a cheap mountain bike that's ready to play hard, this one is a great candidate.
―Low Cost and Big Travel―
Mongoose Salvo 29 Sport
This entry-level, full-suspension bike gives you a sampling of what you’ll need to get into some rowdier trails, or simply take the edge off the trails you already enjoy. The aluminum frame features 100mm of rear travel paired to a 120mm SR Suntour XCM fork with a hydraulic lockout and preload adjustment. The 8-speed, 11-32 cassette has some big jumps between gears, but the 22/32/42 triple chainring gives you more options to work with. And with 27.5-inch wheels, this bike will roll well both on flow trails and more technical terrain.
―1x10 drivetrain and 120mm of travel―
GT Verb Elite
If you just gotta rip and don’t want to drop a boatload of cash, check out the GT Verb Elite. The aluminum frame has an air shock, with rebound adjustment, that gives 120mm of travel at the rear wheel and is paired with a 120mm SR Suntour XCR32 fork that also boasts rebound adjustment and hydraulic lockout. The 1x10 drivetrain simplifies shifting and the lack of a front derailleur means there is one less part that needs maintenance. A 32t chainring paired with an 11-42 cassette gives you good options for getting up the steep stuff without neglecting the go-fast gears. And Shimano hydraulic disc brakes with 180mm rotors provide plenty of control on technical trails.
―Cheapest Race-Ready Hardtail―
Giant Talon 29 2
This bike earns a spot on our list for a few key standouts that make it a great choice for both the semi-dirt-curious and active riders who wants to try their hand at racing. The SR Suntour XCM HLO fork has 100mm of travel and sports preload adjustment and a hydraulic lockout. The Shimano 2x9-speed drivetrain comes with an 11-36 cassette and 22/36 chainrings up front. That will give most riders gear options for climbing as well as ripping down flow trails. Possibly the Talon’s best features, and a big perk on a bike at this price, are the tubeless-ready aluminum rims and race-ready, tubeless Maxxis Ikon tires. Tubeless tires flat less and offer a better ride and more control.
―Race Ready Ripper―
Fezzari Wasatch Peak Comp 29er
Updated for 2019, this race-ready ripper makes the list because it’s both a great first XC race bike and a competentbike for all-day trail adventures. The 130mm SR Suntour XCR Air is a great fork for a sub-one thousand-dollar bike, and the Shimano 1x10-speed drivetrain simplifies shifting while providing a generous gear range. The Fezzari is outfitted with 29-inch wheels and 2.2-inch, tubeless-ready Maxxis Ardent Race tires, but it can can also take 27.5-inch wheels and fat, 2.8-inch tires (but you'll need to buy a different wheelset). Fezzari bikes are sold direct, and the online configurator lets you add custom options and upgrades.
―Great First Trail Bike―
Trek Marlin 7
One of the cheapest bikes on this list, the Trek Marlin 7, which also comes in a women’s version, is also one of our favorites because of its balance of performance and affordability. It’s a great first trail bike for kids who are curious about mountain biking and maybe even interested in racing, but it’s also a solid choice for adults who want a low-cost, multipurpose bike that’s ready for adventure. Rack mounts and a 3x9-speed drivetrain make it a functional commuter, and the 100mm RockShox XC30 coil-spring fork is quite reliable. Internal hose and housing routing adds a pro-level look.
―Best Hardtail For Racing―
The Aguila, part of the KHS's XC Sport line, is the only bike on our list with an 11-speed drivetrain—a great perk and unusual for a bike in this price range. A 100mm SR Suntour Raidon fork with hydraulic lockout, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, and tubeless-ready, 29x2.2-inch tires make this a very capable entry-level race bike.
―Dropper Post And Big Tires―
Giant Stance 29 2
We've loved Giant's Stance with 27.5 wheels, and we're stoked to see Giant now offers its low-cost full suspension bike with smoother rolling 29-inch wheels. Updated geometry is optimized for 29-inch wheels, and the bike retains the ALUXX aluminum frame and FlexPoint rear suspension system. The end result is a full-suspension bike with 120mm frame, a 130mm fork, 1x12 drivetrain, and tubeless-ready 2.35 inch tires that can both roll quick and bite hard into the trial.
―Best Entry-Level Race Bike―
Specialized Rockhopper Comp
The Specialized Rockhopper has been around almost as long as mountain biking has been a thing. There are currently 10 Rockhoppers in the lineup, including women’s models, with the Comp model falling right about in the middle (the least expensive is the women’s Rockhopper for $560, the most expensive is the men’s Rockhopper Pro 1X for $1,300). With 29-inch wheels and 2.1-inch tires, this is clearly a go-fast hardtail. A Shimano 2x9-speed drivetrain makes it versatile for singletrack trail riding or as a race bike, and this bike also gets cool points for the incredibly hot Gloss Storm Grey/Rocket Red/Tarmac Black paint scheme.
―The Cheapest Bike On Our List―
Mongoose Argus Sport
This is the only fat bike as well as the least expensive bike on this list. It doesn’t have suspension, but it does have 4.9-inch-wide, low-pressure (3 to 5 psi), tires to smooth out the bumps and tractor over most everything, and float over sand and snow. Its 3x9-speed gear range lets you haul ass on packed snow and plow through the heavy stuff. Flat pedals accommodate bulky winter shoes or boots, and hydraulic disc brakes bring it all to a reliable halt.
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